Brace yourself – as the planet continues to become increasingly warmer, summer heat waves could be part of our new normal. Across the globe, hotter days are becoming more frequent and severe, and scientists predict they will only get worse.
Extreme heat – basically defined as a “period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two days”- is a serious concern. Heat can aggravate drought, and hot, dry conditions can lead to wildfires. Buildings, roads, and infrastructure absorb heat, which can make urban areas hotter than outlying areas by 1 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This phenomenon is known as the urban heat island effect.
Heatwaves have severe impacts on air quality. Studies show that hot and humid days can lead to an increase in the creation of ground-level ozone, a dangerous pollutant that is the primary cause of smog. People who suffer from asthma are especially at risk from ground-level ozone because it impairs their respiratory system.
A heat wave can result in heatstroke and dehydration, which increase the risk of death and illness. Heat-sensitive populations include the elderly, those who live alone, pregnant women, people with disabilities or chronic medical conditions, athletes, people who work outdoors, and children.
It’s possible to suffer from extreme heat while indoors, especially if you have inadequate ventilation in your home. Prepare your home to prevent the risks of heat stroke by following these steps:
- Plan and prepare your cooling and ventilation methods strategically.
A good air conditioning unit can help you manage your home’s temperature and humidity. In the absence of an air conditioner, you can circulate air throughout your home with box and ceiling fans. Utilizing box fans to push hot air outside can function as an “exhaust” system and bring in cooler evening air. As the temperature outside lowers at night, you can open windows to promote air circulation. During peak daytime temperatures, close all doors and windows, and make sure to close curtains and blinds as well, to stay cool.
- Minimize unnecessary sources of heat inside the home.
Light bulbs and computers that are left on can generate unnecessary heat. Eat fresh food as much as possible to minimize using gas or electric stoves that can increase house temperatures. Use candles sparingly. Scented candles release harmful volatile organic compounds along with heating your home.
- Consider using shades for your windows.
Keeping your windows open during hot summer days might sound like the best way to keep your home cool, but in higher temperatures they are better kept closed. Keeping your windows closed especially during the hottest time of the day can help your home stay a little cooler. The sunlight entering your home through your windows is mostly converted to heat, so keep your curtains and blinds closed during the hottest hours. Consider blackout shades or curtains to keep windows covered and block sunlight completely.
- Know the signs of heat stroke and prepare emergency plans.
Heat stroke is a serious condition and unfortunately it’s not always easy to spot signs especially among older people. Check on your family members for some general signs such as:
- Heat rashes
- Slurred speech, feeling of disorientation
- Upset stomach, nausea, dizziness
- Involuntary muscle spasms in the arms or legs and excessive sweating
Heat stroke can be treated with some basic first aid treatments and emergency numbers should be kept on hand.
- Keep an eye on the air quality in your home in real time.
By being able to monitor the changes in your temperature and humidity at home, you can promptly respond and address issues that may arise. Using a smart air quality monitor for your home can help you determine which rooms become hotter or colder at certain times, automate your heating and cooling devices, and prevent heat illness.
- Health effects of ozone pollution. (2015, June 5). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/health-effects-ozone-pollution
- Heat waves and climate change. (2021, December 16). Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. https://www.c2es.org/content/heat-waves-and-climate-change/
- https:/\/getuhoo.com\/blog\/home\/is-your-air-conditioner-helping-your-indoor-air-quality\/#author. (2022, March 10). Is your air conditioner helping your indoor air quality? UHoo | Clean Air for All. https://getuhoo.com/blog/home/is-your-air-conditioner-helping-your-indoor-air-quality/
- Parsons, K. (2009). Maintaining health, comfort and productivity in heat waves. Global Health Action, 2. https://doi.org/10.3402/gha.v2i0.2057
- Sario, M. D., Katsouyanni, K., & Michelozzi, P. (2013). Climate change, extreme weather events, air pollution and respiratory health in Europe. European Respiratory Journal, 42(3), 826–843. https://doi.org/10.1183/09031936.00074712